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Business Mums Returning To Work Shared Parental Leave

Parental Leave At Nestlé – A New Era?

Parental leave – or maternity and paternity leave as it is commonly known – has been under scrutiny for some time. The introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) in 2015 was a small step towards recognising both parents play a significant role in the first year of a child’s life. However, with only 7% of workers taking advantage of this (You Gov and Winckworth), is there more to be done by organisations themselves?

In theory SPL offers a solution to gender equality. However, it hasn’t created the big shift it intended to do. There are also many more factors to consider as parents. Birth recovery, for birth-giving parents, breastfeeding and bonding with their new child is important. However, often comes the burden of feeling like this extended leave will be detrimental to career progression for mothers. Fathers – who in most cases get the grand total of two weeks off which can suffer with a severely impacted work-life-balance. Fathers miss important milestones with their children and this out-dated, traditional model simply reinforces mum dealing with the kids, dad going to work.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Of course, if this suits your family, there is nothing wrong with this. But what about for those families where this isn’t ideal? Also for same-sex parents and adoptive parents, leave entitlement can be significantly less in some organisations. Traditional parental leave and SPL do not offer the choices some parents’ desire. It is therefore down to the organisations themselves in charge of such policies to take action.

One organisation that has done just that is Nestlé. They recognised the balance of family life and work are of paramount importance to employees. Thus saw the need for change and modernisation. Nestlé introduced their Parental Support Policy.

For Nestlé there are no longer separate policies and entitlements for maternity, paternity, adoption and surrogacy leave. They have done a fantastic job of bringing all scenarios into one policy. Not only is this incredibly easy for employees to navigate, it also encourages a gender-neutral approach. Additionally, employees are eligible for parental leave from day one of employment. As a Career Coach working mainly with mums, I know all too well the stories of “sticking it out”. Staying in a job you aren’t happy in simply because you need the good maternity leave on offer from your employer. With this available from day one at Nestlé, this will no doubt also support their hiring and attraction strategy.

Parental Leave – The Nestlé Way

The core element of the new parental leave policy at Nestlé centres around choosing to take Primary or Secondary Caregiver leave. As Primary, this looks and feels a lot like standard maternity leave (Up to 52 weeks of leave, pay up to 18 weeks with 10 KIT Days). Secondary Caregiver Leave is much more generous than standard paternity leave. Secondary Caregiver Leave allows you to take up to 12 weeks off at any stage within the first year of the new child entering your family. Four of these are fully paid. The key thing is either can apply to you – whether you are giving birth or not.

I shared some of the detail with some working mum groups on Facebook. Some were a little shocked. Why would a mum only want 12 weeks off? Doesn’t she need to recover and establish breastfeeding? Don’t the titles reinforce stereotypes of being a primary or a secondary carer for your own child? My answer to all of this is, “but isn’t in fantastic to have the choice? Isn’t it wonderful to not dictate what should happen in your family because of gender or route to having a child?”

The reality is, since the introduction of the policy just 7% of those taking primary caregiver leave have been male. However, prior to the policy, the option would not have been available in this form – only via the constraints of SPL could they have got anywhere near. We can expect numbers to increase as at present it’s early stages.

Holly Birkett, Co-Director of the Equal Parenting Project at the University of Birmingham, has spoken about the positive knock-on effect. “While at an individual level more time off and maternity pay for women may look positive, actually it can lead to more women dropping out and it affecting their earnings and career progression (negatively) over time,” she says.

Having a choice about parental leave at Nestlé is key

Several of those I conversed with about this policy really saw the benefit. The key theme being the benefit of choice. Many birth-giving mothers may well still take Primary Caregiver Leave. However, for any that would prefer to return to work sooner, there is now a choice.

Nic Hammarling, Head of Diversity at Pearn Kandola says “I constantly hear from men that they want the opportunity to take a more active role in caring for their children. However, many are intimidated by the idea of asking their employer for time off work. In a workplace environment, to be nurturing and caring isn’t often expected of men and. As such, many are wary of the backlash they may receive for asking for time away to be with their children. Increasing paternity leave from two to four weeks, for example, could actually move us further away from equality because it still reinforces that the mother should be the primary carer,” she has said. With Nestlé’s policy not stating maternity or paternity, but allowing parents to choose the role they take is a huge move towards a more equal space.

This benefit was also noted by a mum who works in a senior role within FMCG. She shared “I would imagine, when a father-to-be shares that the baby is on the way, just having this policy in place means a conversation happens. A Conversation at work that asks which type of leave best suits his family. This results in a further conversation at home to make that decision. This can only be positive as it triggers the switch to talk about balance. To talk about who will do what and how involved will each parent be. It allows the father to have a conversation he may not otherwise have felt comfortable raining himself at work. If this was an option for my husband when my children were born, I think we would have gone for it. At least with the second one – with my partner taking Primary Caregiver Leave”.

Nestlé supporting decisions

The mum I quote above is right. Nestlé provide all parents to be with a decision tree to help them figure out which type of leave best suits their family unit. They also ensure parents know that they can take advantage of parental mentoring through the Parent Pal mentoring scheme, join the online parenting community Parent Talk, and use an online parent coaching app to further support their parenthood journey.

There of course is still a long way to go to get this totally right. I doubt as a society we will ever reach the perfect plan for parental leave. As more organisations shift their thinking as Nestlé has, we will begin to see the change we all hope for.

Nestlé and inclusivity

Of course many families will still choose to take the more traditional pattern of leave. This is totally fine – not everybody needs or wants to do anything different. But by allowing choice and recognising all parents equally, Nestlé at least are moving towards becoming much more, truly inclusive. I can’t wait to see the journey at Nestlé and learn more about phase two.

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Find Rebecca via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.

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Child Care Dads Flexible Careers Flexible Industries Lifestyle And Wellbeing Mental Health Mums Returning To Work Parenting and Work Productivity & Flexibility Work Journeys

Working in a Post-Covid World.

March 23rd 2020. The day we heard our Prime Minister say “From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home”. The day working from home, indefinitely, began.

Fast-forward over 13 months. Many are still working full-time from home. Some are gradually finding their way back to the office. There are organisations that have managed things brilliantly and seen this as an opportunity to shape flexible working. Some have managed things terribly and are already making unnecessary demands to fully return to the office, with no clear business need. Some employees are desperate to get back, some are desperate to retain the flex they have had forced upon them.

As we emerge from these unprecedented times, the waters feel muddy. There is little consistency across employers or industries. What is clear is that many of us are feeling the burn out from living at work with little to no break and a year of no holidays.

So how are we planning for the post-Covid future?

Many organisations have hit the press for their positive moves towards supporting employees well-being and flexibility. For example, Dropbox have made working from home a permanent move. Microsoft is moving to a 50:50 homeworking to office working model. John Lewis head office is taking a hybrid or blended working approach. Having spoken to a wide range of parents, the general consensus seems to be a 50% office based role will become the norm.

These approaches make total sense given a study by The University Of Southampton found nine in ten employees feel they had got at least as much, if not more, work done at home as in the office. Employees also shared that they have benefited from the flexibility to organise their tasks and discretion to make decisions about when they do their work from home.

How this effects parents?

Whilst it is clear from this study and many others – such as the research conducted by the childcare provider, Bright Horizons – working parents are overwhelmingly in favour of a continuation of flexible hours and some form of hybrid working. Christelle who works for a large energy company shared:

Having the flexibility to do the school run and eat together at the start and end of the day as a family, has had a huge positive impact on our family dynamic”.

Likewise John, who works for an IT company said:

The time I have had to become more involved in my son’s life has been amazing. If allowed to continue, I believe this will have a life-long impact to our relationship, having been around so much in his formative years”.

It is also clear the general consensus is that the pandemic has allowed us to prove such a model could work. However, more than half of employees involved in the Bright Horizons research thought their employers were likely to be unresponsive to demands for greater flexibility once the pandemic dissipates. Denise Priest of Bright Horizons shared “There seems to be disagreement between some organisations and their workers about what normality should mean”. This is backed up by the research I conducted. A mum working for a large US Bio-sciences organisation is shared her worries that, “whilst all the right things are being done now, will these have the longevity that society needs?”

So what is the right answer?

The only very clear thing in all of this is one size does not fit all. We knew this anyway, but employees, pre-covid, bent over backwards in many case to mould themselves, their families and other commitments to fit the requirements of work. Whilst we have been missing social contact, there is a clear preference amongst the majority of parents to combine office with working from home in the future. Seven in ten (73%) employees wish to adopt a hybrid work arrangement – blending working from home with the communality of the office – and to retain the flexibility and control over their working pattern from which they have benefited under lockdown.

I am hearing of a huge amount of examples of organisations asking their employees what works for them? One FMCG company has even gone as far as introducing a whole new contractual way of working. Allowing some individuals to work on a retained project basis. They are then able to dictate their working hours – fitting work to their lives, rather than fitting life to their work.

All this said, there are some that working from home is not good for. I say “not good for” because I don’t just mean convenience. I mean their mental health is suffering because of the isolation this can bring. If you are younger, live alone or in a shared house environment. If you wish to reap the social rewards of the young, working generation. Many of these people NEED the office environment in order to protect their mental health. This sentiment was clearly shared by one person I spoke with from the Oil & Gas industry, who said:

I have genuine concerns for a single, female colleague who has clearly struggled mentally with the stay at home message”.

Flexible Working is the way forward.

It truly feels the power is shifting. People have proven a flexible model to suit individuals – IS achievable. There are organisations taking this on board and adapt to their staff. Allowing work to fit with life, rather than forcing employees into an unmanageable, unsustainable, unnecessary, unhealthy work pattern. These organisations will be the winners in the long run.

The 2021 Modern Families Index Spotlight points to potential discord ahead. 55% of respondents indicate their loyalty to their employer long term depends on employer’s reaction to the pandemic and beyond. As they continue to attempt to juggle work, child care and care of elderly relatives. Employers who recognise the priority of family life and provided practical support for staff will retain – and gain – talented employees. While those who have not will lose out. John, who I mentioned earlier, working in IT, very honestly shared this with me:

I will seek alternative employment if pushed too far to revert to old ways of working. It is clear this is a preference, but with no clear justification, in my organisation. Which could result in me seeking alternative employment”.

What about well-being support?

It seems many organisations are focusing on what the working week should look like. However, what hasn’t been shared as broadly is what organisations are doing to support the mental well-being of employees.

The University of Southampton Study shared that maintaining working from home during the pandemic, whilst may have been in some ways more efficient, has taken its toll on mental health and well-being. In fact, responses on this area in their study found ranking very low. 47 out of 100 – measured against the World Health Organisation WHO-5 global standard. AXA back this up further. Finding that two-thirds (64%) of those working across the UK and Europe said their stress levels increased compared to pre-pandemic. Of these, eight out of ten (81%) describe themselves as having a “poor” or “low” state of mind.

Given for many the kitchen table has become the office with home / work boundaries becoming uncontrollably blurred. It stands to reason that burnout is a very real prospect.

What are the effects of this?

On the flip side, organisations are planning for future and maybe even dictate what this future will look like. Although it may be that some do not feel ready to commute or be in the office. A mum working for a small start up shared with me:

I am not prepared to return until I am vaccinated. This has already happened for my boss so we are at slight odds around timing. Which is causing a bit of of stress and anxiety”.

Some have been shielding, may have vulnerable family members. Many have adapt childcare provisions and may not easily be able to reinstate wrap around care. Either because it is not available or because they are not inclined to revert back to the old ways. Such as running from breakfast club, to the train, to work, to after school clubs. And various other activities without having a minute for any family member to breathe.

As a backdrop the pandemic has triggered significant emotional, physical, and economic burdens:

  • Social isolation,
  • Working from home while caring for children and other family members
  • Exposure to the virus – personally, via loved ones, or from working on the front line
  • Experiences of long-covid

Mental health care advocates believe Covid can cause many to suffer from something close to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In August 2020 the CDC published results of a large US web-based survey of more than 5000 adults. In which over 40% demonstrated experiencing at least one adverse mental or behavioural health problem related to the pandemic. Including symptoms of anxiety or depression (30.9%), substance use to cope (13.3%) and considering suicide (10.7%). This suggests a flexible work environment is something employers must consider when working in a post-covid world.

What needs to be done?

Many parents have shared a number of initiatives their organisations are doing to support well-being. These include

  • virtual coffee chat drop-ins
  • no-meeting days
  • access to counselling
  • well-being allowances
  • access to the office for those struggling working from home

but is this enough?

Workers have proved they are highly adaptable in these unusual times. One senior music industry employee shared, the pandemic has propelled flexible working forward by ten years, if done right. However, employers’ focus must now be on well-being. On supporting people through this next phase of transition. Above all else it is our well-being and mental health that has suffered most. I wonder how well organisations will take account of this as a factor of our return? This is a whole new phase. A positive shift hopefully, but one that needs managing with great care and support.

For other insights into this subject, why not have a read on The Real Gender Impact of Covid-19. And the struggles women have faced during and potentially post-covid.

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Career Change Mums Returning To Work Work Journeys

How Important Is Your CV To Gaining Employment?

“I must get my CV updated!” “I haven’t done one for years – I have no idea where to start!” “How will I explain my career break?” “What’s the best format to write my CV in?” “How can I make my CV work for me when I want to change career?”

These are statements I hear several times a week. The CV is still perceived as the ticket to a job by many. The make or break of those endless applications… Do we still need to be wedded to our CVs in this way? Are employers primarily focussed on the content of your CV? How long do they even spend reading your carefully crafted document you spent hours perfecting?

Your CV in Six seconds.

Six seconds is the average time a Recruiter spends scanning a CV at the application stage. It doesn’t balance with the hours you put into it does it?

At this point in time, CVs still form a part of a recruitment process in most cases. Even if other assessment methods are used at the application stage, we are still very likely to be asked to submit a CV.

However, with 72% of organisations reporting at the start of 2020 they struggle to find the right skill set via CV applications – despite an average of 250 applicants per role (Gurvinder Singh –TechRank) -are CVs the best tool for recruiting? Based on these stats, they aren’t working. But why?

It could have something to do with the six second scan time I mentioned above! It could be due to a CV really only representing how good you are at writing a CV. If you are great at packing loads of potential keywords into your CV so an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) flags you as a good fit, you will get an interview. If you have great skills but your CV doesn’t have the keywords, maybe you won’t be invited for the next stage.

CVs are highly impacted by reader’s interpretation and unconscious(and conscious) bias. Is English your second language? If your CV isn’t written as eloquently due to this, you may be rejected, despite being a great fit for the job. A CV is a page of words. A picture is formed from it’s contents and inferences are made unconsciously. A CV does not demonstrate how good we are at anything, how much support we had or if our skills are actually a bit rusty.

So what is the answer?

I mentioned keywords – if I could give one tip it would be to get as many keywords, that fit the job description, into your CV as possible! That way you are more likely to get through the ATS. But if CVs are essentially just a piece of paper reflecting how good we are at writing CVs, what more can we do?

Sticking with CVs for a moment, there are other ways to write or present them.

Skills based CVs

Skills based CVs are becoming increasingly popular. This is a small shift but allows you to present your skills or competencies on the first page – outlining what you good at and how you have demonstrated them in various roles. You can then list your chronological experience on the second page but with no need for lots of detail. The point of this is to pull out the relevant stuff and hit the reader with it off the bat, on page one. Abby Clandon, a Recruiter within the care sector shared she “doesn’t mind what type of CV we receive, as long as it displays why (you) are the right candidate… A combination of skills based with chronological content is best”.

Matthew Metcalfe of Covea Insurance Plc went as far as saying that the “CV plays a tiny part in identifying talent… the most important moment is when we get to speak to the candidates”. Which got me thinking, we need to be talking to Recruiters and hiring managers as soon as possible – ideally before a role is even advertised!

Networking

Business Insider has reported upwards of 70% of jobs never reach the job boards. 70%! Another reason the traditional “apply with your CV route” is possibly dying out. This of course opens up all sorts of arguments around equal opportunities etc, but it is happening whether we agree with it or not. So the “I must update my CV” is not the best place to start.

Networking is vital. If you have been able to speak to someone, build a relationship before the request for a CV comes. You are definitely more than a few steps ahead. It also means, if a CV is requested you will already have insider info ensuring your CV is more relevant. As Abby Clandon shared, the key thing she looks for is passion for the area of work. So much so in fact her organisation doesn’t even insist on sending a CV. Their assessment is primarily focussed on a values based interview.

Video CV

Getting your personality, your passion and your skills across to a potential employer will definitely make you stand apart from the crowd of Word documents and PDFs. Video CVs are becoming more popular in the graduate space and in the US. There is no reason these cannot be used for professional roles here in the UK. Of course you will want to stick to the application criteria, which may include a written CV. But there is nothing stopping you supplementing your application with a short, 1-2 minute intro video. A short intro to you, why you want the job and what you can bring to it. This is like giving them that first impression they would get in a face-to-face interview, but much earlier on.

Get Creative with your CV

We have all read the stories about people mailing boxes of cakes to employers with their CV printed over the box. This would be great for a Graphic Designer for example, but maybe not so much for an Accountant. That said – why not?

I have seen people turn CVs into QR codes printed across a picture of their face. IT professionals converting their CVs into a mini video game. Ok, cakes or video games may not play to your strengths, but finding ways to stand out that are relevant to your industry and reaching the right Recruiters and Hiring Managers may well get you a meeting. At least purely on the basis of standing out.

Visual CVs

Whilst based on the format of a traditional CV, this tool allows you to produce a document accessible via a link. You can embed video, blogs, PowerPoint documents and more. This allows you to easily amend your visual CV to match potential jobs or to send whilst networking. This is a great choice for those that still wish to have a document (you can download as a PDF) whilst adding more personal touches to get your personality across.

So what does all this mean? The traditional CV doesn’t seem to be disappearing, but it isn’t the only tool in your box. Rather than agonising over your CV as your first step into your job search, switch your focus. Add more to your Linked In profile to make it relevant for the job you want. Make use of video or visual tools to supplement your networking and applications. You will stand a better chance of getting noticed. Whilst employers still use CVs, as technology progresses it is likely they will become less and less important. I can’t say you no longer need one, but make use of the tools out there get more creative, more adaptable – more YOU! It is YOU that will get the job – your CV, is simply your sales and marketing tool.

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Rebecca can be found via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.

For more advice on CV’s:

How To Approach A CV When You’ve Had A Career Break

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Diversity and Inclusion High Profile Returners Lifestyle And Wellbeing Mums Returning To Work Professional Mums Work Journeys

Imposter Syndrome – Fix Bias, Not Women

Imposter Syndrome. We have all heard of it. If you are a high-achieving female you may well think you have it. If you don’t, you will know many others that do.  But, what if Imposter Syndrome isn’t real? What if it is a resulting factor of society and biology combined?

The 66% of women ‘suffering’ with Imposter Syndrome (according to a study by Access Commercial Finance) may be shouting “no, it’s definitely real”. Bare with me…

You can loosely define imposter syndrome as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.

Where did Imposter Syndrome come from?

Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes developed the concept. Originally termed “imposter phenomenon,” in their 1978 founding study. The study focused on 150 high-achieving women. They recorded that “despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.”

This study, despite it being based on just 150 participants, spurred decades of development programmes and initiatives. These were all in an effort to address imposter syndrome in women. Many high-profile women have shared they suffer with IS. Examples include – former First Lady Michelle Obama and Tennis champion Serena William. If you want to find out how to “overcome” Imposter Syndrome, a quick Google search shows up more than 5 million results.

What if Women Aren’t The Problem?

What’s less well explored, is why imposter syndrome exists in the first place. The advent came with the study mentioned above in 1978, but what about before then? Did it just not happen? Or has something changed in society or with “sufferers” that has resulted in this pandemic?

A theory I subscribe to is that workplace systems and simple biology may have a lot to answer for. Currently, women are almost blamed for having Imposter Syndrome. They are told they are suffering and need to overcome it. They are ‘diagnosed’ with a condition. So, it must be down to them.

Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey explored this further. Their published findings, in a Harvard Business Review article, share “imposter syndrome puts the blame on individuals, without accounting for the historical and cultural contexts that are foundational to how it manifests… Imposter syndrome directs our view toward fixing women at work instead of fixing the places where women work.”

Maybe You Are Just Normal!

Feeling uncomfortable, second-guessing yourself and mild anxiety are all normal. These feelings are more prevalent in women at work. Men of course experience similar feelings. However, men are often selected based on capability rather than history. The opposite is true for women. It stands to reason if you haven’t done a certain thing before suddenly you feel out of your depth. As a man’s potential is validated over time, feelings of doubt are reduced. Add on the fact men are easily able to find role models in the workplace. Mentors who are like them and are less inclined to question their competence. It therefore makes sense that these very normal feelings have a lesser impact and are less likely to be labelled.

Women experience the opposite. We question if we have the credentials we need to achieve. We hear “women often suffer with Imposter Syndrome”. In fact career development programmes aimed at women almost always have a session on “overcoming imposter syndrome”. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When women demonstrate strength, ambition, and resilience, they are often described as “aggressive” or “overly assertive”. The idea of imposter syndrome doesn’t take account of workplace dynamics and suggests women need to deal with the “issue”instead.

Men Are From Mars…

It is a biological fact women are programmed to be more risk averse. They are more likely to be perfectionists. Jessica Baker, a Business Psychologist, says we are wired to not step too far into the unknown – left from when we needed fear to protect us, and our young. Also, there are a disproportionate number of men in leadership roles. This means falsely equating confidence with certain traits that are most often demonstrated by male leaders. We then interpret these traits as competence and leadership. Thus, if we don’t have these certain male dominant traits, we question ourselves, decide we lack confidence and diagnose Imposter Syndrome.

Fixing Bias and Society – Not Women

The “fix women’s imposter syndrome” narrative has persisted, decade after decade. Perhaps instead workplaces should focus on creating a culture for women that addresses bias.

In the mid-1990s Clance, the ‘founder’ of Imposter Syndrome suggested the impostor phenomenon could also be attributed as far back as the way girls are communicated with as children. People would compliment girls on being “pretty” and “chatty”. Whilst “Brave” and “intelligent” used for boys. These concepts can define us. It is therefore easier to put success down to luck or being liked. Not individual success.

All this said, I do not totally dismiss Imposter Syndrome as “a thing”. But, I do wonder if

  • we address healthy, normal self-doubt via supportive work cultures,
  • seeing more women in positions of leadership and
  • not using vague feedback like “you need to better develop your leadership qualities”.

we may be in a better place.

Is Imposter Syndrome is a stand-alone syndrome? Or is it a result of complex societal, biological and workplace factors? Either way, it still affects us.

Then how do we deal with it? Ask yourself “where is the evidence that you are doing a terrible job or making bad decisions?”. The fear is irrational. Your current experience of it is often far worse than the negative outcome you are anticipating.

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents, find their paths back to career happiness. Find Rebecca via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.

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Lifestyle And Wellbeing Mums Returning To Work Work Journeys

Protecting Your Mental Health During Your Job Search

Does job searching affect our mental health?

Losing your job and being out of work for a significant period of time is classed as both a psychological and financial trauma (Carl Van Horn, PhD, Rutgers university). A large body of research shows unemployment is linked to feelings of anxiety, depression and loss of life-satisfaction. Even when financial strain isn’t a by-product of being made redundant, losing your job can still be detrimental to mental health. Job searching can take it’s toll.

Work provides us with routine, structure, identity, purpose and social interaction. When that is taken away, the effects can be palpable. It is critical that, whilst job searching, you are conscious of protecting your mental health. For those still in employment, support those that are not. 

The all consuming job search

It is far too easy to fall into the trap of feeling inadequate. If you are not at your laptop, searching and applying for jobs, feeling that you are not doing enough. Feeling as though all hours of the day must be spent on your search.

The reality is this is likely to have a detrimental effect. Your anxiety levels will increase; on days when results are limited, you will feel lower or like the never-ending search is hopeless. The fact is, being tied to your job search every waking moment, won’t make more opportunities appear. Whether you log on for three hours or eight, the amount of jobs you find to apply to are likely to be the same. The only difference will be, is how exhausted and less motivated you will feel.

So what is the answer? How can you take care of yourself, when all you can think about is securing your next job?

A vital element is maintaining structure. Creating a sense of routine provides the stability you lack from not being in work. Get up at a decent time and go about your day with a sense of routine. Try blocking the first two hours to focus on job search and applications. Take a break for chores, have lunch, do a final hour of networking via Linked In, or other platforms. Then spend some time on a hobby or social interaction with a friend or family member (socially distanced of course!). 

Exercise is incredibly helpful. Even if you are not a gym bunny. Doing something physical, ideally first thing in the morning really does get the blood flowing. It also helps you to focus. It will also release endorphins that help fight feelings of depression and anxiety.

What can you control?

When you are searching for employment you may feel uncomfortable with the unknown – when will you find your next job? What will it be? Where will it be? How much will you earn? It is therefore best to focus on what you can control – not what you can’t. If you begin to feel stressed or anxious about a particular thing, consider “is this within my control?” if yes, what can you do about it? Otherwise, let it go and consider what is in your control that you can positively impact instead. 

Seeing constant headlines about more companies going bust and more redundancies being made can impact your mood and feelings about your own job search. Do not let these things affect your mind-set – do not give up. If you find yourself slipping into thinking “there’s no point, I will never find a job”, take a day off the search. Try and think of new ways you can positively impact your search. It is not just about applying to advertised jobs. Spend time networking, look for new connections on LinkedIn. Arrange some virtual coffees, attend on online networking event. Switch it up and bring new life to your search. 

Let people know how you feel

Speak to your partner, friends or family for support. Job searching can be a very lonely place so allow others in. Finding a job search partner can be really motivating. Check in with each other, set goals and help one another stick to them. Celebrate successes and pick each other up on more difficult days. If you are feeling low on a regular basis with very little lift in your mood, don’t be afraid to seek professional support.

Celebrate success!

Not everything about your job search will be negative! Find ways to reflect, recognise and celebrate successes – no matter how small. Keep a visible note of what has gone well. This is really helpful for motivating you when you have more challenging days. Start each day reading through your successes. Even if it’s simply that you made a new, useful connection on LinkedIn – it’s a win! Share the steps forward you are making with those closest to you. Finding a new job can take time, so see each day as being one step closer. 

There are positives of being able to take a little time out too. Use the time you have, outside of the few hours of job search activity each day

  • To reconnect with people you often don’t get time to speak to
  • Return to, or take up, a new hobby,
  • Read the books you never normally find time for,
  • Spend an afternoon pampering yourself.

Job search is one part of what you need to do now. However, the rest of this time is for you to make the best of your time out. Take the break you deserve and invest in your mental health. 

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Rebecca can be found via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums. 

Read more about dealing with job loss here:

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Gender Pay Gap Mums Returning To Work

The Gender Impact Of Covid-19

How Bad Can It Be?

Women make up 39% of global employment, but account for 54% (so far) of Covid-19 related job losses. This means women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s (McKinsey). Not great news for efforts to close the gender pay gap.

Before Coronavirus, there had been slow progress in closing the gender pay gap, gender parity remained uneven. Without intervention, a real risk exists that slow progress made, could go into reverse. Not only holding back gender equality but the global economy. 

Why Are Women Bearing The Brunt?

Women are disproportionately represented in industries and jobs negatively impacted by Coronavirus (think hospitality, tourism, retail, childcare…). However this only explains one quarter of why women have been more vulnerable to job losses.

Coronavirus, has seen many women assume the lion’s share of the childcare, home schooling and household chores. All whilst trying to hold down the career they worked tirelessly to achieve. This highlights that socially we still live in a world where such responsibilities are assumed to be “women’s work”. This has resulted in a huge volume of women feeling they need to make a choice between their careers and their families. 

The “second shift” as it is often referred to (when the unpaid job of childcare, household chores, cooking, cleaning kick in after actual working hours!) has been increasingly shared by men. But, it is a fact women are still bearing most of the load. Women are being interrupted by household demands at a much higher rate than men, meaning performance at work is more heavily impacted. Childcare is still being cited as one of the number one reasons for women not being able to work (CNBC).

What Does This Mean For Women In The Longer Term?

Whilst many men have been able to lock themselves away to carry out a full days work, many women have not. This could mean an impact on their output. Quite possibly also on their perceived performance and therefore their potential development and promotional opportunities. The stark reality is the impact of Coronavirus on women’s careers may well be felt long after the virus is out of circulation. A widening of the gender pay gap, not closing it as we’ve long fought for. This will then only exacerbate the pay and promotion gaps that were already in existence. 

One good thing to come from this is more focus on and acceptance of the need for flexible working. However even this is not viewed equally. Some say men are encouraged to make use of flex to enhance productivity. Women are expected to adopt flexible working to allow more capacity for their unpaid work.

All of this goes to show equality at work and embracing flexibility for all is not just a nice thing to do. It should be a requirement of all employers. Women can’t be everything to everyone all of the time. Using flexibility to suggest this is possible is not the right solution. We need flex for all. We need to be able to manage personal and professional lives in unison. Not as a way to attempt to be the doer of even more things!

Does This Have To Mean Bad News For The Gender Pay Gap?

There’s no debating times are tough and women really have arguably taken the biggest hit. This doesn’t mean we have to accept this as our fate. We cannot rewind back to the 1950s. 

The Covid crisis has allowed us to redress the balance a little at home. I know in my household, my husband being home and seeing more of the children has had a positive impact on all of us. We are a calmer and happier household. I am less resentful of him having the “luxury” of being out of the house all day. He is less exhausted from hours on a train struggling to find time for exercise and rarely seeing the kids outside of the weekend; the children clearly see him as a more equal care-giver than they did previously.

Many of my clients have found remote working opportunities which historically would have been purely office based – one of the reasons some had left their careers several years back. There is less feeling of needing to prove ourselves before we ask for flex or remote working. It’s a fact of life that we all continue to need this and I have high hopes many organisations will keep this as a permanent feature. 

Having time away from the workplace (whilst hugely stress-inducing for those that have worked throughout), has allowed time for reflection. Time to consider what we truly want from our lives and careers. Investors In People have found one in three of the UK’s population are unhappy in their current role or industry. This in itself is not cause for celebration. But we may have just carried on pushing through without this time of pause and reflection. Ending up in a much more unhappy place. 

The Question Now Is What To Do Next?

Albert Einstein said “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity” and this is something we all must remember. Organisations can take this chance to change how they embrace flexible working, how they manage performance and promotional activity; parents have more opportunity to bring more equality to the unpaid work at home; we all have a chance to truly consider what we want. Now it feels hard, like we just need to get through it. But what can you take from this? Work towards the future you want that this unexpected pause in life has allowed you to see?

Can We Continue To Close The Gender Pay Gap?

We are in uncertain times. Work practices are changing, for the better we hope. So while this pandemic may have set women back, I know that women are fighters and we will bounce back from this. Stronger and better than before.

Find Rebecca on our career coaching page

Categories
Career Change Mums Returning To Work

The Career Passion Killers

Career Passion Killers

We all know children are passion killers. But nobody tells us we may find ourselves robbed of our career passion too. Many mums return to work, ready to get back to being them. Only to find the career they used to love has lost its shine.

The Pre-children Career

We all expect having children will change our lives in many ways. Mainly for the better. But, let’s be honest, there are some things we begrudgingly accept as part and parcel, rather than embrace excitedly. Sleepless nights, toddler tantrums, kissing goodbye to leisurely Sunday mornings and romantic getaways… Let’s just say the excitement of an early night is for different reasons once kids are in the picture!

Taking the tube (or MRT as it is in Singapore where we lived when my first child was born), arriving into the buzz of the city, picking up a coffee, getting into the office early, embracing the chit chat – especially on a Monday hearing about everyone’s weekend antics… The office was where I spent the majority of my waking hours. I was good at what I did. Well respected, high performing – I loved my job and the environment I was in.

Returning to work I expected these feelings of fulfilment, purpose and “professional me” to come flooding back. Of course I expected adjustments – logistics of childcare being the main one – but this was time for me. I worked incredibly hard to gain a promotion just before my first maternity leave. This was to avoid feeling held back because of taking time out (which is a whole other blog post!). I had no doubt in my mind I would be a professional, career-driven mum.

Return to Work

I returned after my first maternity leave to a different job within the same company. It didn’t go well. I returned feeling unsupported, most of my key stakeholders based on the other side of the globe and in all honesty, felt out of my depth. Exhausted with a seven-month old baby waking around four times a night, feeling lost in a role I had really been newly promoted into – albeit seven months before. I fell pregnant again not long after my return. We moved back to the UK and the next few months are a bit of a blur. I knew I wasn’t happy, but put it down to all the changes – new baby, new job, relocation.

Next time would be different. Returning after my second and final maternity leave would be no joke. I said to my husband “this is the next phase of my career, not me faffing about between having babies this time”. I needed to get it right, no messing around.

Where Did My Career Passion Go?

I was excited and ready to go. Then BANG. I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel the buzz I had before, in fact quite the opposite. Day by day, I felt more and more disengaged. All the passion that I had had in spades, dissipated. I became resentful of those that seemingly still loved their jobs. I was losing motivation outside of work because of how unhappy I had become. You wouldn’t want to be around me. I felt trapped. I wanted this life, I used to love my job… what was wrong with me? I tried really hard to just get on with it. I told myself things like “When the kids are a bit bigger it will feel better again”… but it didn’t. I speak to so many other women who have experienced the same. The jobs they once loved just don’t bring them satisfaction any more.

What I now understand, is that becoming a mum can shift what is important to you. The things that used to engage you, just don’t any more.

Work Values

Fast forward to now and I love my new career. When I hit my career low, I took time out. Realising having a family had, like so many others, shifted things for me. The company and the job were not the issue. Yes I could probably have been better supported upon my return, but the crux of it was I was trying to be comfortable in my old life. A life that didn’t fit any more. My values had totally changed. The things that used to matter most, didn’t any more. My career, whilst important, was not my everything any longer. I discovered, via coaching, my top values are autonomy, recognition and strong relationships. The reality is, whilst these were being met in part, it was not in a way that also fitted with my needs as a parent of young children.

This of course doesn’t happen to every working mum. There are many happy working mothers – which is fantastic! However, when you do lose the passion you once had, it can hit you hard. Leaving you feeling guilty, confused, unhappy and trapped.

In my coaching I talk a lot about career happiness. I strongly believe being happy in your career is critical. Some feel it’s selfish – surely doing the right thing for our family is the most important thing? Being happy in work impacts how happy we are out of work – as a mother, wife and friend and so is not selfish at all. As parents we owe it to our children to show them we are important as individuals and that we can achieve change for the better in our lives.

You may just need a push to go for it. You may have no idea what the alternative is. If that’s the case and you need help working it out, I’m here and happy to chat – here’s my diary.

You Don’t Have To Stay In A Job That Brings You No Joy

My message here is quite simple. If you have lost the love for your career since becoming a mum, you are not alone. There is nothing wrong with you. You don’t have to stay in a job that brings you no joy and could be damaging to your mental health. You most likely don’t hang out in the same bars and wear the same clothes you did 15 years ago (well not everyday at least!). So why should your career remain stuck in the past?

You may also be interested to read The Mum Guilt In Your Career.

Categories
Career Change Flexible Careers Mums Returning To Work

How To Improve Your Personal Brand On Linkedin

Whether you love or hate social media, it can play a major part in how you’re perceived as a job seeker. Not to mention when you’re striving to make it as a freelancer or an entrepreneur. We live in such times when you can cultivate your own personal brand online even without necessarily owning a small business.

Let’s take a closer look at how to squeeze the most out of LinkedIn, the top player in the realm of business-to-business social media. Become a Linkedin Allstar.

Become a LinkedIn AllStar ★

To increase your chances for being matched with a potential employer/client, you need to become an LinkedIn ‘All-Star’ (i.e. hit the highest level of profile strength). To do this, make sure you fill in every one of those boxes!

Intermediate or beginner levels of profile strength are not enough for maximising your brand on LinkedIn. Especially if you’re looking for a new role.

  • An up-to-date headshot,
  • Your current position
  • Your past few positions
  • Industry,
  • Location
  • Education
  • 5+ skills
  • and a profile summary are among the many prerequisites you need to in order to become a Linkedin AllStar. And then, as LinkedIn itself claims:

“You’re in a league of your own. Your profile is 27x more likely to be found in recruiter searches.”

Think of your summary as a business plan for your brand

The final step before achieving your All-Star status is writing a summary. Think of this as a business plan for your personal brand.

Since it may be the only thing someone glancing through your page may read, an inadequately written or incomplete summary can jeopardise your credibility.

A good summary should be an easily readable at-a-glance view of who you are on a professional level. Arrange information in short paragraphs and bulleted lists. It is much better than forcing your reader to laboriously plough through your achievements and accomplishments in large blocks of text.

Take advantage of the LinkedIn recommendation system

You may have several skill endorsements given to you by your connections as they felt appropriate.

Want to step up your LinkedIn game? Then make good use of the recommendation feature and ask someone (preferably someone for whom you would reciprocate the favour) for a recommendation. This carries more weight than an endorsement for a few reasons.

Firstly, it’s a written statement from one of your connections, not just a one-word attribute. Secondly, it takes more time and effort on the part of the recommender. Finally, it contains specifics about the work you have done. Perhaps it focuses on a time you worked on a project together, or maybe it’s someone who reported into you.

Things can be a bit tricky when you’re brand new to asking for a recommendation. First you need to navigate to the connection’s profile page (not yours). Click the more icon in the top section of the profile and then request a recommendation.

Only once you have given or received a recommendation that isn’t hidden will you be able to request a recommendation from the recommendations section of your profile page.

Next, ensure that you have chosen the correct position you are requesting a recommendation for.

Top tip: To increase your response rate for recommendations. Try giving your connection a rough draft of what you would like them to say. After all, people are crazy busy these days!

Lastly, don’t forget to create a show-stopping headline

Most of the LinkedIn members underestimate the importance of this given space on their profile.

Jessica Ross’ advice is to create a mini-narrative of who you are, including keywords people might search for; a mere job title might not suffice. Her own headline is the following: “Marketer & Copywriter | Helping businesses increase their web traffic through creative storytelling & branding”. Pretty impressive, isn’t it?

Of course young people, especially students and graduates, have much less work experience and heady accomplishments to showcase. But they still shouldn’t be afraid to paint a picture of who they are with verve and confidence.

Now you’re on your way to becoming a Linkedin Allstar.

Check out our other blogs on maximising your chances of nailing that job!

Successfully Navigate A Career Change

How To Ace That Interview

Categories
Career Change Flexible Careers Mums Returning To Work Parenting and Work

The Mum Guilt In Your Career

Mum Guilt – A Fact Of Mum Life.

Feeling guilty for feeding them the wrong food, the amount of screen time they have, for being a working mother, for not sending them to enough enrichment activities… the list goes on. 70% of working women having dependent children in the UK, meaning career related mum guilt is a big deal for many of us.

If you are a mum who is passionate about your career, whilst the guilt of course is still a thing, it is definitely dampened by the fact your career makes you feel good – meaning you are a happier, more pleasant person – mum – to be around. But what happens if the passion is gone? If you are unhappy in your career and need to make changes?

As a Career Coach, I speak to many mums who feel guilty for wanting to make such changes. One mum shared “It feels so self-indulgent taking time to work out my career when I should be focussed on what my kids need”. Breaking that down, what she really said was “I’m not worthy of happiness. I should be ok with feeling desperately unhappy a large proportion of the time. My mental health isn’t as important”.

What this statement lacks is the acknowledgment remaining unhappy at work, where we spend up to 80% of our time, would, without a shadow of a doubt, have a negative impact on her over all wellbeing and mental health which would trickle into her relationships with her children, partner and other loved ones.

Being a mum, whilst being the best thing in the world, is also mentally and physically exhausting, sometimes lonely and often thankless. Layer on top a job you dislike or even hate, I can promise will not have a good outcome.

Time To Crush The Mum Guilt

The perception we can only do the job we have always done and so have to suck it up, needs destroying. I and many of my clients have worked through this belief, crushed it, made changes and are a million times happier as a result – and have not suffered significant financial impact (which is often a major concern in career change). Career change does not mean a permanent significant reduction in income nor is it a reason to feel guilty. Fixing something that’s causing immense unhappiness, stress, maybe even resentment or anger, is the best course of action not only for you, but for your family too.

Getting Back To Career Happiness

So where to start? You have made the decision to make a change (well done), but have no clue what to, or how to find the answer.  Going round in circles for some time trying to work this out is not uncommon. You are not alone – this is the exact state my clients come to me in. The bad news? You are going round in circles because you are looking for something that doesn’t exist in your head. The good news? You can do many things to get out of your head to find the answer. 

Here’s how:

Values

The most likely reason you are unhappy is because of a mismatch in your work values. It is critical to understand what’s important to you – a supportive boss? Being challenged? Autonomy? Work-life balance? Working this out is often the biggest indicator of what is wrong with your existing situation – what it is not giving you. Your career move must fit with your top values. If you struggle to figure this out, this test will help: https://www.123test.com/work-values-test/

Skills

Consider the numerous skills you have (developed both inside and outside of work). Which you want to carry on using? Think about the skills you want to use more of or develop further. Again, this will give indicators of what is going wrong in your current role – are you using skills you don’t enjoy using any more? 

Stop Looking For The Solution. 

Bare with me, I haven’t gone crazy! Constantly looking for the answer is what is keeping you stuck. It’s like trying to put the roof on a house with no walls. You need to figure out what the walls are made of first – what will bring you happiness? As above,

  • What are your work values and skills you want to use?
  • Consider your interests?
  • Figure out your non-negotiables?
  • What do you need to feel satisfied at work?

Once you are clearer on these areas you can start thinking of solutions.

Get New Input. 

When the answer does not lie in your own head, you need new input. Take responsibility to find this. Talk to new people, attend workshops, engage with someone with a different, but interesting, job. Google research is great, but there’s a high risk of getting sucked into a black hole, watching cat videos before you know it! Nothing is better than actual human connection for new input to really make a positive impact. Expanding input will open you up to new ideas you didn’t even know existed!

No Filter!

When considering options look out for “I would love to… but”. Thinking of something and moving to all the reasons it won’t work, you filter, validate and decide in one go, based on assumption. Instead write all possible ideas down – crazy and sensible. Research those you are most drawn to. Once you research and understand what that career change would entail then, and only then, you rule it in or out.

This way you know why you want to do a something and look for ways to make it happen – rather than reasons it can’t. Some options you will decide are not viable, but deciding based on fact – not assumption – is the key. 

Taking Control

Taking control of your career when you are stuck and unhappy is nothing to feel guilty or self indulgent about. The cost of ignoring it will be way higher. You deserve more – and so do your children. You are most certainly worth it! Time to crush the mum guilt.

This process is not easy or quick, but definitely possible. If you need help working it all out, I’m here and happy to chat – here’s my diary.

Rebecca can be found via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums. 

If you are looking for other blogs on career changes try this one: Successfully Navigate A Career change.

Categories
Mums Returning To Work

Killer Mum Skills

To Enhance Your CV

As a mum we learn and perfect a whole host of highly employable skills and talents. But we often overlook these let alone use them to build self confidence, enhance our CV and market our skills.

We can often feel our skills are outdated, our employability is affected and there are career gaps to explain.

There are so many different skills you will have gained whilst raising a young family and these are highly sought after by employers. Here are some of our top killer mum skills:

Time Management

No one knows the value of time better than mums juggling a busy household. You are an expert at juggling multiple tasks and allocating slots in the day and week to get everything done. Meeting deadlines – kids have to be fed on time (avoiding hangry children!), kids at school have to be picked up on time, they can’t be forgotten or simply left outside to wait. You will have mastered how to squeeze as much into a day as possible. These are invaluable skills that enhance your productivity and efficiency at work.

Communication

You will have learned to listen, persuade and counsel your children. Mastering the art of staying calm during tantrums and having to communicate clearly. You also help your children to express themselves and communicate effectively. Communication is a key component in any role and such, these skills will be highly employable.

Problem solving

Every business needs problem solvers. As a mum you will have been faced with a whole host of problems you never knew existed!

  • Getting your newborn to recognise day and night;
  • How to manage temper tantrums when out and about;
  • How to get your child to share toys on a playdate…the list of problems we encounter as mums is widespread and endless.
  • You also learn how to help your child to problem solve for themselves. 

Event management

Your event management skills will have been showcast from party planning to playdates. You will probably have got adept at managing a busy social calendar for your children (they can have busier schedules than the parents!). You will have had to find a venue, create an attendance list, plan entertainment and food and pull off the event. Such events will also demonstrate your ability to plan, organise and manage people.

Creativity

The recent lockdown experience was a particularly good time to work on those creativity skills. You come up with ideas to keep kids occupied and busy in the home. Maybe you had to take on the role of teacher and therefore come up with creative ways to homeschool and teach parts of the national curriculum. Whatever the age of your children you will have honed those creative skills in some shape or form whilst finding ways to entertain and develop those key childhood milestones.

Build Your Confidence

There are so many more skills we perfect as mums and the above is just a starting point. Take some time to think about your killer mum skills, then use these to refresh and enhance your CV. This will help build confidence and increase your chances of getting your CV into the ‘yes’ pile and selected for an interview.

The Essential CV Makeover For Mums

If you are struggling to update your CV, you are not alone. That’s why we’ve launched our new course – The Essential CV Makeover for Mums.

We will guide you step-by-step through the process of writing your CV. And we’ll do this in five manageable chunks so that you can fit it around all your other commitments.

Book by 19th July to benefit from our Early Bird price of £49. You can find out more here: Essential CV Makeover For Mums.

Want to read more posts about making the most of your CV?

CV Writing after a career break.

How To Ace That Interview.